Carmichael’s Kids: How Flooding Led To A Downpour Of Support Of Highlands Bookstore

Feb 7, 2023 at 10:32 am
Carmichael's Kids in 2020.
Carmichael's Kids in 2020. Photo via carmichaelskids/Facebook.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, a little boy and his father went to Carmichael’s Kids, searching for a book about Martin Luther King Jr. Unfortunately, the children’s bookstore in the Highlands had become a victim of flooding from the intense rain the day before. Carmichael's Kids co-owner Kelly Estep saw the boy in tears and went out to talk to the father and son. The boy asked if his beloved bookstore would be okay and if the stuffed animals survived the damage. Estep fetched the book that he wanted, and she assured him that everything would soon be okay. 

The same day, Carmichael’s Kids released a statement on Instagram and Facebook announcing that they would close indefinitely due to severe flooding. Estep told LEO the bookstore that the building will be closed for “at least several weeks.” Parents and children expressed their concern via social media, and Estep told LEO that there has been nothing but positive support from not only Louisville families, but also from other indie bookstores across the country.

Estep said that flooding is quite common for businesses in the Highlands neighborhood, and the bookstore suffered around $1,000 worth of damage to its books alone. She told LEO that fixing the damage will include replacing the floor, all of the carpet, and much of the furniture.

Local families told Estep that they were hoping for a quick rebuild, and some even offered to volunteer with the process. The indie bookstore world also offered immense support. The daily newsletter "Shelf Awareness" featured Carmichael's Kids as its lead story on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Then, Estep received dozens of texts and emails from other indie bookstore folks showing their support and offering advice. Carmichael’s Kids even got the attention of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), who reached out to encourage the bookstore to apply for funds to rebuild after the natural disaster.

Estep told LEO, “It’s an amazing industry to be a part of, and now we really all support one another all across the country. It’s really cool because when you own a business, sometimes you start to feel a little overwhelmed and isolated. I really love knowing that I have this huge group of people across the country who are going through the same things and trying to make a successful business out of an industry that some people say is old-school.” 

Building a community around reading has been a heartwarming experience for Estep. She said that the bookstore, which opened about eight years ago, has created a community of young readers who value “the warmth of the space.” She said the bookstore exists to foster “a lifelong joy of reading," even though competing with phones and video games is "a battle against the devices." It means the world to her, she said, when children keep coming back to Carmichael's Kids, then grow up and move on to the main Carmichael's Bookstore as adults. 

When Estep and her team came to assess the damage on Jan. 15, she said several other kids stood outside the store crying, worried that their bookstore would never open again. She assured them and everyone that Carmichael’s Kids was not going anywhere, and she hopes to open again soon.

“We just want to see all those kids' faces coming back in the doors and keep doing what we're trying to do, which is foster [a] love of reading and to reach out to try to build community partnerships," she said.

For now, employees at Carmichael’s Kids are working at other Carmichael’s locations, and Estep is working on the best way to replace the furniture and other items that were damaged by the flooding. Carmichael’s Kids encourages patrons to visit their location in Crescent Hill (2720 Frankfort Ave.) until the bookstore reopens.